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A celebration of truly cool kids

The heroes were served chicken strips, mashed potatoes, tossed salad and red velvet cake.

They sat at round tables, their proud parents nearby ready to knight each of them.

There was Rachel Daniels, 14, who jumped a 6-foot fence and got her 77-year-old neighbor out of a burning house. She sat across from Nicholas Donaghy, who feeds the homeless every week.

There was Abigail Mattern, 10, who found her 3-year-old brother at the bottom of a pool and saved him. She sat across from Stephen Brownfield, 17, who is mentally challenged and works as his high school basketball team's manager and cameraman.

"It's cool finding out everyone's stories," Rachel Daniels said.

There were more than 80 children, between ages 5 and 18, who attended the 10th annual Kids are Heroes Awards Ceremony on Wednesday at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.

Parents, teachers, friends, neighbors and others had nominated them for recognition at the annual event, which welcomed each with limousines, a red carpet, an introduction by the Tampa Bay Lightning's announcer and a handshake from player Nolan Pratt.

Thunderbug the Lightning mascot was there, as was a juggler who balanced a unicycle on his chin, drawing oohs and ahs.

But the biggest applause was saved for the children, whose heroic acts were read off before they were brought up on stage.

One gave a hungry student lunch money for breakfast. One brings a therapy dog to a nursing home. Many cut their hair for cancer patient wigs. One saved his mother from a poisonous snake. Zachary Bonner puts together "Zach packs" filled with necessities for homeless kids. One saved an elderly man choking at Wendy's. One tutors people preparing for GED tests. One sat with a boy trapped in a tree.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

WINNERS

AGES 5-8

1. Ty Colella - Saved drowning sister.

2. Keely Clanton - Raised $1,400 for special playground inspired by brother with special needs.

3. Summer Hudgens - Found dad critically injured in barn and helped stabilize him.

AGES 9-12

1. Eugene Thomas - Alerted family to a fire and dialed 911.

2. Patrick Pedraja - Leukemia patient who raises money to fight disease by offering advertisers space on his bald head.

3. Emily Sasso - Involved in several charities including a club she started that gives school supplies to needy kids.

AGES 13-18

1. Michael Fanizza - During his birthday beach party, saved drowning brother and performed CPR.

2. Catherine Lester - Took over daily care of a special-needs sibling and donated bone marrow to sister.

3. Joseph Evans - Carried friend away from a nest of Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, despite being bitten four times.

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